The poet’s secret artistic talents are unearthed for a new show at Washington D.C’s Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

The poet’s secret artistic talents are unearthed for a new show at Washington D.C’s Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

A new exhibition showcasing Sylvia Plath’s secret art collection has opened in Washington D.C’s Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.  The show, titled One Life, offers an insight into the Pulitzer-prize winning poet’s complex creative life – celebrating, for the first time, her natural gift for visual art and imagery.

Plath is most famous for her boundary-breaking literary work; from her savvy coming-of-age novel The Bell Jar to her chilling poetry collection Ariel, written in the months leading up to her suicide. What she’s less known for, though, is her life-long devotion to drawing, painting and the arts.

Collage by Sylvia Plath. Courtesy Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, © Estate of Sylvia Plath
Collage by Sylvia Plath. Courtesy Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, © Estate of Sylvia Plath

One Life includes a varied selection Plath’s art. There are politically-charged collages, sketches, water colours, comic strips and a collection of abstract paintings, offering a rare glimpse into the iconic author’s personal life. If that wasn’t enough, the show also displays a number of other personal objects, including “personal letters, self-portraits, and family photographs.”

“Sylvia Plath’s fascination with images and imaging was a strong part of her identity,” says Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture at the Smithsonian. “The exhibition allows us to see what she described as her ‘visual imagination’ in all its complexity.”

"A War to End Wars" Self-Portraitby Sylvia Plath. Courtesy Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, ©Estate of Sylvia Plath

“A War to End Wars” Self-Portraitby Sylvia Plath. Courtesy Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, ©Estate of Sylvia Plath

Self-Portrait in Semi-Abstract Styleby Sylvia Plath. Courtesy Estate of Robert Hittel, ©Estate of Sylvia Plath

Self-Portrait in Semi-Abstract Styleby Sylvia Plath. Courtesy Estate of Robert Hittel, ©Estate of Sylvia Plath

"Twas the Night Before Monday"by Sylvia Plath. Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. © Estate of Sylvia Plath

“Twas the Night Before Monday”by Sylvia Plath. Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. © Estate of Sylvia Plath

Triple-Face Portrait by Sylvia Plath. Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, © Estate of Sylvia Plath

Triple-Face Portrait by Sylvia Plath. Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, © Estate of Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath: One Life
will be shown at the 
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery until May 20, 2018.

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